Leadership and career

Engagement Surveys: Step One Toward Employee Engagement and High Performance

By August 25, 2017 No Comments

Year after year, studies show that businesses with higher engagement also have higher performance, and vice versa. The goals of high engagement and high performance are not mutually exclusive; they are mutually dependent. A team of employees works at its optimum when management focuses on employee engagement while remaining performance oriented.

Long-term, consistent employee engagement depends on building a culture that provides the environment and benefits typically valued by most employees. Among those are clear communication and understanding of expectations, a connection between work performance and the company mission and feedback and recognition for the value of employees’ work toward meeting performance goals.

As a result, improving employee engagement should be viewed as an ongoing process, with a number of diverse campaigns and initiatives. Each campaign and initiative produces data and information to be incorporated in the next effort. This creates a cycle of engagement and performance. As employee engagement improves performance, higher performance encourages more employee engagement. Conducting a survey is often the first step in the process of increasing employee engagement.

Conducting a Survey

It is recommended that HR gain the commitment of the employer’s senior leadership to use and act on the survey data prior to undertaking the survey process. When the employer does not follow through, employees’ trust is drastically reduced and the employer will have a harder time getting employee buy-in and participation in future efforts. When the employer follows through, however, employee trust grows.

An employee engagement survey should not have too many aims. It should focus on a small and manageable number of questions that are relevant and meaningful to the organization. To determine the design of the survey, the employer should consider what impact it wants the survey to have on the organization. As well as striving to understand and increase engagement, many employee surveys endeavor to improve key measures — for example business performance, recruitment or staff retention.

To encourage employees to participate and complete the survey, employers must ensure that they maintain employee confidentiality throughout their analysis. It is important that employers do not analyze results at a level or demographic that will identify employees. This means that respondents should not be able to be identified from their responses. The employer should communicate to employees that their confidentiality is important and is guaranteed.

To ensure confidentiality, the employer should not analyze or share survey results at the team level where a team provides fewer than 10 responses, nor should the employer break down results by demographic data if the group is not large enough to ensure anonymity. However, these results will still feed into the results for the organization as a whole and any higher business-unit levels. Wording to this effect should be included on the questionnaire.

If an external provider is conducting the survey, the organization should check that the outside firm follows a code of confidentiality. If the organization is conducting the survey itself, only the team responsible for conducting the survey should have access to the full data set. Electronic administration, using outside data capture and analysis, is desirable.

The survey should be straightforward and easy to understand, administer and analyze. Marking all questions, or potentially sensitive questions, as non-mandatory can encourage survey completion, because this will enable employees to complete some questions while leaving blank any questions that they would prefer not to answer. Attempting to make employees answer every question may result in employees leaving the survey before completing it.

The survey should include specific questions to measure the level of employee engagement, such as whether employees would recommend the organization as an employer, commitment to the organization and willingness to provide discretionary effort. One form of question is to ask how much employees agree with statements like:

  • “I would recommend this company as a great place to work.”
  • “I intend to be working here in 12 months’ time.”
  • “Working for this organization makes me want to do the best work I can.”

A five-point scale is recommended to allow for gradations in perceptions (versus a series of “Yes-No” questions). Employers should keep the survey title simple and avoid the term engagement, which could be confusing to respondents.

Improving employee engagement should be viewed as an ongoing process, with a number of diverse campaigns and initiatives, including the employee engagement survey.

About the Author

Robert S. Teachout, SHRM-SCP is an XpertHR Legal Editor. XpertHR encompasses the full spectrum of the employment life cycle, so that no matter what your responsibilities, which states and cities your employees are based in, or what HR challenge you are facing, you can be confident that you’ll find the resources you need quickly and easily. With practical breakdowns of complex employment laws at your fingertips, it’s never been easier to keep compliance up, and risk down.

XpertHR’s content is written by over 400 attorneys from 70 of the country’s top employment law firms, and edited by an in-house team of legal editors and HR professionals. To download a free copy of XpertHR’s employee engagement whitepaper, visit XpertHR.


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